The U.S. State Department announced Wednesday it had approved a $1.1 billion arms sale to Taiwan, strengthening Taiwan’s defenses amid heightened tensions with China.
Of the proceeds, $665 million will be used for missile early warning radar systems and $355 million for up to 60 Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles.
“At a time when China is putting Taiwan under increasing pressure, we are providing Taipei with what it needs to maintain its defense capabilities,” said Laura Rosenberger, senior White House director for China and Taiwan affairs.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense expressed gratitude to the United States for the $1.16 billion deal with the Biden government for the island democracy’s purchase of air-to-air and air-to-water missiles, DPA reported.
A ministry spokesman announced this morning that the Biden administration had notified the U.S. Congress in advance of the proposed sale under the Taiwan Relations Act.
The deal includes a $655 million logistics support package for an air defense radar system, 60 AGM-84L Harpoon anti-ship missiles and 100 AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, Taiwan’s Central Command said.
Taiwan’s total defense spending hits a record high in 2023
Taiwan’s Cabinet announced on August 24 that it would increase its defense budget by 13% to $1.88 billion next year. The record increase comes as tensions rise to their highest level in decades as China conducts large-scale military exercises.
In addition, a special budget was set up for introducing new equipment, such as fighter planes, to strengthen air and naval forces. Citing Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang, the spokesperson for the Executive Yuan, said the total defense budget for next year will be $19.41 billion, a record high.
China conducted simulations of strikes on U.S. ships
China has simulated strikes on U.S. naval ships and is determined to stop foreign troops from coming to Taiwan’s help in the event of a conflict, according to a report on Chinese war preparations reported by Reuters on Thursday.
According to a study produced for Taiwan’s parliament, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to increase its military preparedness to attack Taiwan, concentrating on the island chain that spans from Japan through Taiwan, the Philippines, and Borneo, shutting China’s coastal waters.
Beijing may employ special troops to disrupt Taiwan’s command systems and cause infrastructural damage. According to the study, Jet was also capable of launching electronic strikes to disrupt communications and command systems.
On August 28, two U.S. warships passed through international waters in the Taiwan Strait and called it “fully in line” with the U.S. “One China Policy” and the pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific. John Kirby, the National Security Council’s strategic communications coordinator, announced on CNN that “it was planned a long time ago.”
The U.S. Navy said the cruisers Chancellorsville and Antietam were conducting a routine operation. In recent years, American warships, and occasionally ships from allied nations such as Britain and Canada, have regularly passed through the strait.
The passage of two U.S. warships through the Taiwan Strait was the first such operation since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
China has increased its military intimidation of Taiwan since the beginning of the year, including via military drills to weaken the island’s morale, “force negotiations through war,” and “force unification (PRC and Taiwan) by force,” according to the Taipei Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Beijing, which considers the island to be its property, reacted harshly to Pelosi’s travel to Taiwan in early August. Following that, China launched military drills around the island. A week following Pelosi’s visit, a party of U.S. politicians also visited the island, further infuriating China.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense also stated on Thursday that 14 PRC military aircraft crossed the Taiwan Strait’s median, which serves as the unofficial boundary between China and Taiwan.
Funds for HIMARS
Following the cancellation of its original plan to purchase M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, Taiwan’s military has allocated funds to purchase more M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers from the United States, according to a proposed defence budget released yesterday.
The proposal, given to the legislature for consideration, suggests that the army intends to purchase 29 HIMARS, a truck-mounted multiple-launch system, which is 18 more than was previously intended.
It also intends to purchase 84 ATACMS, a long-range guided missile system, up from the initial target of 64, and 864 precise rockets for use by HIMARS, which has a strike range of 300 kilometres, according to the plan.
According to the army, the goal is to send high-precision, high-mobility, long-distance weaponry to Taiwan’s frontline islands to remove invading enemy troops since it would be impossible to replenish such sites swiftly.
If ordered, the 11 HIMARs will be delivered by 2024.
Meanwhile, Taiwan and the United States have agreed to the purchase of four MQ-9B SeaGuardian airborne drones with ground control stations and other support equipment, with delivery slated for 2025.
The agreement signed by the air force and the American Institute in Taiwan is valid until December 2029, when the installation of the support systems is to be finished, according to a contract notice issued by the ministry yesterday.
Fires at a Chinese drone
On Tuesday, Taiwan’s armed forces announced that it had fired warning shots at a Chinese drone that flew over an island controlled by Taipei.
The authorities in Beijing have never ruled out the use of force to subjugate Taiwan, which is considered part of its own territory.
Taiwan’s army announced a four-step standard response to Chinese drone invasions. In a press release, the Kinmen Defense Command reported that at 4:08 p.m. on Monday, troops on Shi Islet noticed an unmanned aerial vehicle flying at the height of 30m in a restricted area around 200m from the outpost. Soldiers shot warning flares before the drone flew away, headed to Xiamen, China, approximately 5 kilometres distant, at 4:09 p.m., according to routine reaction protocols for such incursions.
In addition, an unidentified civilian drone has been shot down over Taiwan’s islands near the Chinese border, the Taiwanese defense ministry said on Thursday. The ministry said it had opened an investigation to keep Taiwan’s borders safe.